Andalusian Asparagus*

*Or, would a Synstylae smell sweeter?

[If you’re looking for an easy yet impressive side dish, this is it! Andalusian Asparagus is vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, yeast-free, and low glycemic. Suitable for Stage 3 and beyond on an anti-candida diet.]

A couple of days ago I was sent a tweet by someone who had noticed my email signature (“Ricki Heller, PhD, RHN”) and commented on my doctorate degree (I guess she hadn’t realized I have a PhD).  The funny part is that I usually consider people who call themselves “Dr.” with a PhD (versus an MD) as unbearably pretentious, and I try not to do so.  But as I mention in my “About” page: “I hold a PhD in Modern American Literature, which came in really handy the one time my sweetheart and I wanted to book a hotel room for our anniversary, and we got bumped up to a suite instead of a regular room because I had the title “Dr.” on my form.”  That was pretty much the best use of my degree so far. 😉

But the anecdote got me thinking about how people sometimes use labels for things simply to make the things sound better than they actually are. Remember Roseanne Barr’s old skit in which she called herself a “domestic goddess” instead of a housewife?  And of course there’s the classic “sanitation engineer.”  Or that old résumé staple, “I’m a perfectionist” (ie, “I never finish any of the projects that I start.”)

When it comes to food, alternative epithets abound.  I mean, giving something a rather exotic moniker makes it sound more appealing, doesn’t it?

Method One: use a word from a different language.  To wit:

Hungry yet?  Or how about Method Two, just use a euphemism:

Then, of course, there’s Method Three: simply name a dish after its place of origin. In this group, you’ll find

and, finally, today’s topic:

When I first came across this recipe in my Kitchen Classics: Gourmet Vegetarian cookbook, I must admit that I turned to the HH and asked, “What does ‘Andalusian’ refer to?” (because, as we all know, the HH is the source of all factoids in my life; and also, I was never very good at geography).

“A place in Spain,” he replied.

Well, I have no doubt that the Andalusian people themselves eat their asparagus this way, so of course the name is apt.  But really, for those of us here in the Golden Horseshoe, calling it “Andalusian Asparagus” just sounds so much more glamorous, doesn’t it? (And besides, “Golden Horseshoe Asparagus” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.*)

Whatever you call it, it’s entirely appealing. The garlicky, bread-crumby flavors in the topping sort of reminded me of French onion soup, but the topping here is more like that of a fruit crumble in consistency (except savory).  Initially, I imagined that the lemon juice might make the crumble a bit too tart to pair well with the spears, but they actually complemented each other perfectly, the umami of the asparagus providing the strong, savory undertone necessary to balance out the citrus.

I daresay you’ll love this Andalusian asparagus.  Besides, it’s a great way to get your kids to eat their organic verdant vegetable fiber. Just sayin’.

Hey, Mum, did you know that I’m half Alsatian?  Doesn’t that sound exotic, too?  And by that I mean, ‘exotic enough to give me some extra treats.'”

*Well, of course not.  Because it’s a horseshoe, not a ring, silly!

This is my first submission this month to Kim‘s and my monthly event, SOS Kitchen ChallengeThis month’s ingredient is–you guessed it–asparagus.

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  1. What a different and delicious sounding recipe! I hope to participate in this month’s challenge. I have an idea, just need to find the time!

  2. Your post really made me smile — you are so right about names and titles. I never had asparagus like this in Spain, but I sure want to have some now.

    And I think the pup deserves a treat just for being so darn photogenic. At the very least, I’d love to give her a big fat hug.

  3. GORGEOUS. On all counts. Paprika and asparagus is a wonderful thought.

    Yes, well, I have a friend who holds a PHD in sound art, so you can just imagine how hilarious I find that to be.

  4. Ricki, always love your stories. Asparagus, waiting here for the spring crop and will make this lovely dish! Where do you get quinoa sourdough bread?!? It sounds wonderful!

  5. As someone who just made the emotionally-fraught and incredibly stressful decision to defer my PhD, your story and comment about the upgraded hotel room made me laugh 🙂

    Also, I’ve always thought of myself as very food-language-smarteryful, so I was delighted to learn something new today: adidas! Thank you!

    • Glad you laughed at the story. . . I’ve had to on occasion! 😉 I just thought calling them “adidas” was hilarious. Talk about changing the connotation!

  6. looks like a great way to serve asparagus – and sounds like a great dish from the name – not that I am into spanish food but the name does roll off the tongue

  7. Such a clever post as always, Ricki, and the asparagus looks great! I think I may be able to come up with something for this SOS challenge. 🙂


  8. What a wonderful way to enjoy asparagus!! YUM!

  9. Yumm! And I can’t believe I forgot to buy asparagus at the market. Asparagus is one of those veggies that my body really loves so I need to make a trip to the store!

  10. I LOVE asparagus and have just found it growing in my dad’s garden! This looks delicious and I’m definitely going to keep my eye on the challenge 🙂

    • How lucky are YOU! I’d be over the moon if I “found” asparagus growing anywhere in the vicinity of my house. . . can’t wait to see what you cook up. 🙂

  11. This asparagus dish sounds wonderful! I love the lemon/garlic/spice combination. I came by a recipe earlier today that used a similar mixture of nuts and spices over pasta that sounded delightful!

  12. How will I have to make these recipes back to back??? They look and sound delicious!! I am thinking this weekend. Thanks!!

  13. Dear God, “organic verdant vegetable fiber” cracks me up. I’m a writer with a part time job as a caregiver. Getting my residents to eat their vegetables is already difficult; imagining their faces upon being offered organic verdant vegetable fiber is priceless.

    Thanks for the smile! English major posts are always especially enjoyed.

  14. Ricki — I have to say, asparagus recipes rarely excite me. But when I saw this, my mouth was actually WATERING. I have no idea how you managed to make a mouthwatering asparagus dish (and picture to boot), but this is definitely one I would love to try. I’m sure it will bring back many pleasant memories from my Spain trip, flavor-wise.

    • You’ve made my day with this comment! I really enjoyed it (and that topping does invite extra nibbles). Anything that reminds someone of a great trip abroad is a good thing, I say! 🙂

  15. Alsatian definitely sounds exotic too! And extra points for cuteness. Treats definitely earned.

  16. Ooo that bread almond topping sounds delicious! I’m a total sucker for marketing and how things are named, even though I know exactly how they’re trying to suck me in!


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